I’ve been thinking about my mother-in-law today. I miss her. She accepted a white woman into her family with open arms and was never anything but kind to me. She even bawled her son out a few times when he did something or said something to me that she didn’t think was nice of him. ;o)
I don’t ever remember addressing her as anything other than ‘shima’. ‘Mrs. Howe’ was somehow too snooty. ‘Marie’ was horrifyingly familiar. At first I thought of her as ‘Louie’s mother’ but I couldn’t call her that. Navajo etiquette indicates that any older lady be addressed as ‘shima’ whether she is your mother or not. It is like saying ‘ma’am’ to a lady whose name you don’t know. I addressed her that way from good manners at first, but over the years she became as much loved as my own mother and the name was appropriate. After Notah was born I referred to her as ‘Grandma’ when I was involving him in the conversation, but she was never my ‘shimasani.’
I have an indelible picture impressed on my memory of her sitting on the side of her bed with her hands folded in her lap, looking out the door across to the distant mountains. She had the greatest patience of any person I’ve ever known. I grew up in an Anglo family where it was rush, rush, rush. Hurry was my mother’s way of life. I don’t know why, we never had any thing that important thing going on.
My mother-in-law never seemed to rush or get impatient over anything. From her example I learned patience. I learned that things happen when they are supposed to and all of my fussing and prodding and worrying won’t make them happen one instant sooner. I had never learned to wait patiently. I knew how to WAIT but not patiently. I had learned to wait while champing at the bit. I fidgeted, I fumed, I worried, I checked the time. And by the time whatever it was I was waiting for happened I was a nervous wreck.